The Difference Between A Rug And A Carpet

Essential info for your interior design dictionary.

Sherwin-Williams Classic Light Buff (SW 0050)
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Liz Strong

Floor coverings are always there, but how much do you know about the fabrics you step on every day? One distinction everyone should know about these floor coverings is the difference between a rug and a carpet—words often used interchangeably. However, it's essential to know the difference between these terms when shopping for home decor, dressing a room, and laying the fabric on the floor. Here are the similarities and differences between these two interior decor essentials.

Defining the Terms

According to Merriam-Webster, a rug is "a piece of thick heavy fabric that usually has a nap or pile and is used as a floor covering." Additionally, a carpet is "a heavy often tufted fabric used as a floor covering" and "a surface or layer resembling or suggesting a carpet." Synonyms? Sure.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, both 'rug' and 'carpet' indicate

"any decorative textile normally made of a thick material and now usually intended as a floor covering. [...] Both in Great Britain and in the United States the word rug is often used for a partial floor covering as distinguished from carpet, which frequently is tacked down to the floor and usually covers it wall-to-wall. In reference to handmade carpets, however, the names rug and carpet are used interchangeably."

So, What's the Difference?

Colloquially, at least in the South, the difference between a rug and a carpet seems movability. We call carpet a covering that stretches from wall to wall, affixed to the floor. On the other hand, rugs tend to be smaller than the room's square footage (by a lot or a little) and are not affixed to the floor. They can be rolled up and moved from place to place.

For more information about rugs and carpets, read why Joanna Gaines starts with an area rug when designing a room, and learn some of our best tips for placing furniture on area rugs. For rug inspiration and to find a pattern that works for your space, read about these outdoor rugs that will refresh your patio or porch. Then check out some Southern Living Collection rugs available at Dillard's.

In your home, do you have rugs, carpets, or both? What's your favorite floor covering for a room? What other interior design questions do you have about your home?

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles